Category Archives: NSW



I’ve been pretty slack with updating this blog hey. I have no excuses except I’ve been busy with a new job, raising a kid, making music, and birding locally. 

I have, however, started guiding birders and photographers on a semi-professional basis. Contact me for rates. Multiple people works out cheaper per person – I can comfortably carry 3 people in my car, 4 slightly less comfortably, but doable.

My area of guiding is typically southern Sydney to about Barren Grounds NR/Jervis Bay area, specialising in the Royal National Park and the Northern Illawarra, although I can go further afield if need be.

I am currently offering 3 packages – 2 hour spotlighting, half day (dawn to 1ish pm) and full day (sunrise to sunset). If you have target species let me know and I can tailor a trip. I have many years of experience birding in this area and on an average half day trip I would expect to see 60-80 species, a full day up to 100. On a spotlighting trip I can pretty much guarantee Boobook, and hearing Sooty Owl, but it’s quite variable what we’ll find. It’s a good way to see mammals though. 



2 Birds, 1 Tank

Getting 2 new ticks on the first day of the year is always a good way to kick things off. So is seeing 76 species for the day – if I can keep up this rate, I’ll have seen all of the Australian species within a couple of weeks! If only it was that easy…

Aaanyway – late 2015, an old mate from my Ornithology degree, Demetris Bertzeletos, found a female Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica), at Lake Wollumboola in the Shoalhaven area of NSW. This is the 7th record for Australia, and his second find – nice work! I had planned to go down immediately after christmas, but life got in the way, so I wasn’t able to make it down.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however, as on the 30/12, reports emerged of a male Paradise Shelduck which had been first seen (but passed off as a dark Australian Shelduck) from the 27/12, but positively ID’d as stoinking rarity on 30/12. It appears that this endemic NZ bird is a wild bird – it was certainly not keen on me being anywhere near it this morning! This record is the first since there were about 5 birds on Lord Howe Island in 1950 – so a while between drinks.

Once it became increasingly looking like it’s a wild bird, the decision to head down on New Years Day and kick off the year in style with a couple of vagrants was locked in. So at 4am this morning, the alarm went off, cereal was eaten, and off I went.

Grey Plover - Pluvialis squatarola

Grey Plover – Pluvialis squatarola

There were a couple of people there when I rocked up at 6.30, 2 on boards taking photos of the Godwit’s in the middle of the lake, and 1 with a scope on land, so I went and chatted to him. He’d just arrived so couldn’t confirm if the Hudwit was seen or not, so I decided to go and get onto the Shelduck before the heat really kicked in. It was about 1.5-2 km to the last reported location of the bird, so off I trudged. On the way there was a Whimbrel, a Marsh Sandpiper, both Knots, a Ruddy Turnstone, 2 Grey Plover, a PGP, a Curlew Sandpiper, more Sharpies than you could shake a stick at, lots of Red-necked Stints, and a good assortment of terns – took me a while to get down there! I put the scope up, located the bird, and then headed over to it and took some photos. Tick! If the bird is accepted as a legit wild bird, that’s bird #534 on the list. Had my fill of the Shelduck, who was getting increasingly upset at my presence, and having noted a number of other birders turning up, I decided to not chase the bird away, but to head back and share the good news that it was there, and find out if the Hudwit had been located.

Paradise Shelduck

Paradise Shelduck – Tadorna variegata

The news wasn’t great – no-one had located the Hudwit, and the dudes out on the board taking photos hadn’t managed to find it there either – the bird has been associating closely with the Black-tailed Godwits that were roosting in the middle of the lake. If you don’t look though, you don’t find, so off I went to have a look at the Godwits and see if I could make it appear. There was a group of birds – probably 6-7 Blackwits, 8 or so Barwits and 1 possible Hudwit, standing on a submerged sand bar, about 100 meters off shore. I was looking at one on the edge that looked different, when some others turned up, and we got a wing-lift! I thought I saw black (this being diagnostic for Hudwit) and the guy with the bazooka lens got a photo and said “that’s it!” (or words to that effect). He was satisfied and headed off to see the Shelduck, I texted my mate who had gone down to find the Hudwit that we’d found it, and the long wait for a better view began. 2.5 hours later, we got it, as we (about 4 or 5 of us at this stage I think…) were sorting through the 2 birds that we thought were probably candidates for Hudwit, willing it to lift it’s wings and show us the black “arm-pits”, when a bird landed at the back of the pack with a flourish of black armpits and we all were very happy that we’d finally got the bird. It proceeded to lift it’s wings at least 3 more times, and I even managed a dodgy record/ID shot that you can see below.

Dodgy record shot of the Hudwit

Dodgy record shot of the Hudwit

Bird seen, I headed home. All plans of a big day derailed by having to wait for nearly 3 hours to see a bird, but this one is an absolute definite, so assuming the Paradise Shelduck goes through, bird #535 it is. 77 birds seen for the day (both down there, en route, and at home) with 50-odd at Lake Wollumboola itself, is a pretty bloody good day out birding. So yeah – 2 cracking rarities, 1 tank of fuel. Facebook is full of people saying “argh – gotta go back now”, so I’ve managed to use up a fair lash of petrol, but only once. Almost environmentally ethical twitching.

I’m doing Bird-a-day this year as well (track my progress here!) and, without question, Hudsonian Godwit is the bird for day #1. Ideally I’ll do better than last time, which was rudely interrupted by the birth of Jr. A good reason to not continue though, hey.

Good times.


Sooty Owl - Tyto tenebricosa A bloody good looking bird.

Sooty Owl – Tyto tenebricosa
A bloody good looking bird, I think you’ll agree!

One thing I’ve discovered is that trying to go birding with a little person in your life is … difficult. So that best remedy for that is to do it at night when he’s asleep! Unfortunately, that restricts my options to owls, frogmouths and I’ve had to expand into frogs. Now I’ll never be a frogger, but they’re pretty cool to track down. There’s a bit of a swampy wetland near me, and I headed down there the other night. Saw 3 frog species and heard another one, and thanks to some advice from a frog person I know who lives nearby, I’ve been put on the straight and narrow for ID – my frog book is still in a box somewhere, and while the ebook version is good – well, it’s the exact same text and images – but it doesn’t work with my brain the same as the book. So enjoy a Peron’s Tree Frog – Litoria peroni.

Peron's Tree Frog - Litoria peronii

Peron’s Tree Frog – Litoria peronii

One of the main perks of living at Helensburgh is the proximity to the Sooty Owls that you can find in the Royal National Park. I’ve looked on at least 20 occasions for these owls, and heard them quite a lot. Often at a great distance, but occasionally so close that they’re doing the trill/insect noise that they do when they’re on top of you, like Predator, yet I’ve not seen the nominate race (I saw the northern Queensland subspecies – Lesser Sooty Owl – back in 2006, but that has now been elevated to full species, and the NSW Sooty’s are now a seperate species, depending on your taxonomy), let alone photographed it. It is a frustrating thing spotlighting for owls in tall, dense wet eucalypt rainforest – you can’t see anything, there’s leeches, and even though you can hear them, you know that the chances are slim to see them. The worst part of all my prior houses was that it was a 2 hour round trip driving to dip on them every time. Now it would only be a 30 minute round trip drive to dip on them! Awesome!

Mountain Brushtail Possum

Mountain Brushtail Possum – Trichosurus cunninghami

Last nights trip followed the usual script – I could hear Sooty calls off in the distance, could hear Boobooks much closer (although equally invisible to my eyes and torch), and all I could find were microbats and a couple of possums – including the above Mountain Brushtail Possum – a first for me. Given Sooty Owls will eat possums, and there were good numbers of possums out, seemingly without a care in the world, and the Sooty Owl/s had stopped calling and weren’t responding to my amazing impersonation of their call, I decided to pack it in for the night, and try again later. Walking out from Bola Creek and heading back out to the carpark, I felt something behind me, and turned to my left to see the dark wings of a Sooty Owl pass behind me and land in some dense low growth. I was super happy with that, and although I didn’t get a photo, I saw a Sooty Owl! Anyway I chucked the torch on the bush, had the bins and scoured that growth and couldn’t see anything. put the bins down, and then it flew up into a high tree about 10-15 meters above the ground, and 10-15 meters away from me! Camera up, click, click – check back, great, decreased the shutter speed and got one more photo off, and then it was gone. I was super stoked, and here are the other 2 photos for your enjoyment. I’m a big fan of their feathery pant legs.

My first photo of one

My first photo of a Sooty Owl

Sooty Owl - my second photo of one

Sooty Owl – my second photo of one

Now I’ll get back down there and try for a: better photos and b: to record their calls. I’m 95% certain I’ve got this guy’s territory mapped out now. I’ve got another spot nearby where I think there’s another bird, possibly it’s partner, possibly the same bird, but it’s always good to have a backup location for a species. Anyway – happy birding everyone!

And here we are. Helensburgh!

So yeah – as I alluded to in the last post, shortly before pledging weekly/more frequent updates, we were moving. And now we have – to sunny Helensburgh. About an hour south of where I used to live, and I’ve already utterly smashed my old house list, in terms of quality, and most of that has just been in moving and hanging out.

Best birds seen in/over/from my yard in the 5 days that I’ve had the keys are: Square-tailed Kite, which is obviously hanging out nearby as I’ve seen (what I assume to be) the same bird 3 times now, the nesting Sacred Kingfishers which are just over the fence, Boobooks visiting my front tree (along with duelling Boobooks calling for most of the night) and having Satin Bowerbirds visiting/flying past daily. My old best bird on the house list in 8 years of Outer-Inner Western Sydney was a passing through juvenile Rufous Whistler, and probably next best on the house list was Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike. And prior to that in proper Inner Western Sydney would have been Koel. So not much chop. My old house list as well was around 55 species, which is pretty bloody solid, but here, in 5 days, I’m up to 47 (my total Helensburgh list, for the whole suburb, and a much larger area than just my house block is somewhere in the 70’s). I am very confident that I will have destroyed the old PB for “biggest house list” by the time our lease is up.

And mammal wise, I’ve also killed it. The old house list was Fruit-bats, 1 rat, and a couple of mice. Here I’ve had Fruit-bats, some sort of micro-bat/s buzzing around the street light, and a deer just up the road as we came in on the day the removalists did their sordid task. I’ll take microbats over rats and mice any day of the week, and I’ll quite happily take deer over rats and mice as an introduced species as well. I haven’t gone spotlighting in my patch of bush which is … 20 meters from my back door yet, but I’ll get into that shortly. There are some frogs calling as well, but I’ll get onto them later. No reptiles yet apart from a couple of skinks which were too fast for ID purposes, but if there’s more than just garden skinks, I’ll have more diversity here than in lovely Campsie. The spiders are more different – I’ve seen about 2-3 species I can’t ID and don’t recall having seen anywhere prior, which is good, and the beetles and butterflies make for all new types of bugs and flying things that I’m enjoying having around. Jr is also quite enamoured with the numbers of butterflies… I’ll make a nature dude out of him yet.

Anyway – tomorrow is a rest day, which means I’ll be up at sparrow’s and off to the Royal for a dawn birding trip. I can’t wait to get down to my new local patch, which I have visited near countless times before, but that has always involved at least a 45 minute drive each way. Now it’s a sub-10 minute trip to one of my favourite places in the park. To be fair, I will miss being in close proximity to Olympic Park and Eastlakes Golf-course (easily some of Sydney’s best birding locations), but you know… I won’t miss it as much as I’ll enjoy living here. He says after 1 nights sleep at the new address. ;) hahaha.

Anyway – hopefully I’ll post more regularly, but I’m not making promises anymore. That just breaks hearts.


Bassian Thrush

Recently we had a holiday of the best part of a week at the wonderful Narrawallee Creek Studio. (I’ve posted about a previous trip here). Obviously Jr, who was 6 and a bit months old at the time came along, and that significantly reduced my birding opportunities. Doesn’t he know that this isn’t the way these things are meant to happen??

In all seriousness though, it was a great trip. Tiring, but good. I managed to see some good birds, including 4 Hooded Plover at 2 locations (approximately 8% of the NSW population), the first lot of returning Bar and Black-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Whimbrel and Eastern Curlew, a couple of late departing Double Banded Plovers. Shoalhaven Heads is open for business – you don’t need to take the ferry across to access the good bird areas, as was the case last year.

One of the other highlights was filming a Bassian Thrush having a good old feed – obviously it has got a mate – or a brood – on the nest. I had a look around for a nest, but couldn’t find anything. (I’ll add a screen cap and make this look better shortly. Trust me – it’s worth a click)

I also managed to get up to Mudgee for a look at the Citrine Wagtail a couple of days before – a lazy 700-odd km fathers day twitch before settling in to drink beer and watch the Swans play some mighty fine football. Shame they didn’t repeat that a couple of weeks later at the Grand Final, but it was a good way to spend my first fathers day. If all my future Fathers Days can be that tops, I’m in a pretty alright place.

Who knows when I’ll get around to uploading more photos and video – it’s taken me this long to get this video uploaded. Babies eh? Stay tuned however – I’ll upload a few shots to Flickr at some point soon.

Anyway – thanks again to Cindy and King for being excellent hosts, and thanks to you for taking the time to read this.



Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

Howdy all,


Well, Jr. is now at the 4.1 month mark, so I’ve celebrated by having the week off. And going to visit Nana on the maternal side, and leaving him with them for a bit while I skyved off down the local park (Deep Water Park, a long time gay beat, past home to Blue Gum Farm, and the Georges River Motor Boat Club or something like that) to see what’s about.

Sca;y-breasted Lorikeet, checking out a nest hollow

Sca;y-breasted Lorikeet, checking out a nest hollow

… is what was about.

There’s also a super reliable Nankeen Night-heron there on the first lake as you drive in. Next to the dead cormorant that has been hanging from a tree for at least 4 weeks.

Still, for a bit of bush in the midst of suburbia, it goes alright. For anyone of my vintage (“mid” 30’s) that grew up around the area and remember it from back in the day, it’s way less dodgy than it used to be. Less of a dump a body vibe than it once had, and the tracks are now sealed. Woo.

And there’s breeding Scaly-breasteds to boot.

Until next time.

2013 – a super late review

As they say – better late than never! In my defence, I have recently become a father, and up until his birth most of this year was spent preparing for the arrival, and now he’s here, most of the time is spent feeding, changing, or sleeping. there has been some birding, but not as much as usual!

So, as far as 2013 went, it was a pretty solid year. 274 species seen, a graduate Certificate of Ornithology obtained (to be upgraded to a Graduate Diploma at a future juncture), and… well that’s about it birdwise. I’m quite happy with that total of birds seen as there weren’t any huge trips last year – 3 trips to Victoria, with 1 all but rained out, only the 1 pelagic and only a few shortish trips around Sydney and down the coast, as evidenced in the Google earth image below. (to follow!)

Birding highlights included:

  • repeated Freckled Duck sightings at several localities – they’ve obviously had a good breeding season;
  • some amazing close views of various raptors, including Osprey, Square-tailed Kite, Collared Sparrowhawk and Spotted Harrier, among others;
  • a good year for shorebirds, with Oriental Plover, Ruff, Pectoral Sandpiper, Sanderling, Long-toed Stint, and Broad-billed Sandpiper making an appearance at different times – also dipping on another Oriental Plover, Asian Dowitcher, another BbS etc;
  • photographing and spending some time with nesting Turquoise Parrots;
  • leading a group of Ornithology students on a great days birding around north-eastern Victoria, and getting just about everyone a tick or 6; and…
  • getting to spend close to 3 weeks birding in and around Chiltern, which included my patented “spend 7-10 nights out looking for Barking Owls and only find Boobooks” – once again, that plan came to fruition.

So this year – seeing as I’m now a new dad, I’m hoping to get to about 200 birds this year, with no interstate travel planned, and pretty much all my birding to happen in and around Sydney, although we are looking at a trip down the coast later in the year. I’m also hoping to keep things here updated more regularly, which theoretically should be more possible as I’m pinned to the house more.

Happy birding everyone.


South Coast NSW, August 2013

In August we went down the coast again, to just get away from work and relax a bit. Unfortunately the weather was atrocious for most of the time we were away!

We stayed at the magnificent Narrawallee Creek Studios which I can thoroughly recommend to everyone. The place is in the middle of Narrawallee Creek National Park, and the birding in the grounds was pretty good. Brown Cuckoo-dove, Wonga Pigeon, Golden Whistler, Bassian Thrush, Gang-gang Cockatoo and the usual thornbills, robins, fantails, honeyeaters that you’d expect on the South Coast of NSW were all over the place. We’ll be back for sure.

In terms of birds, obviously the proximity of the accommodation to Lake Conjola was an attraction. Particularly as at that time of year, the Double-banded Plovers (below) were starting to colour up before heading back to NZ for summer.

Double-banded Plover, Lake Conjola

Double-banded Plover, Lake Conjola

There was nothing else unusual (not that DB Plover is unusual at Lake Conjola at that time of year) at Lake Conjola, and the persistent rain and wind made birding difficult. We did have one nice day, so we went for a drive down to Bermagui, which is always nice, and at Wallaga Lake there were some cooperative Pied Oystercatchers.

Anyway – with all the rain and wind there wasn’t much else to be done except read books and sit by a fireplace! So we did.

Mystery Prion

EDIT – it’s an aberrant Fairy. Shots taken from a couple of others on board and these have been described as the bird having a “floppy pouch”, which isn’t a euphemism, but apparently has to do with an extensive feeding season.


A prion, taken on the 14/7/13 Port Stephen's Pelagic

A prion, taken on the 14/7/13 Port Stephen’s Pelagic

So here we have a prion that was different from the many, many Fairy Prion’s we had yesterday. These 6 photos are 100% crops of a distant bird that has a darker head, and generally darker all round, has a more extensive collar, and unless I’m mistaken the bill looks bigger than a Fairy’s bill. There was a bird that was seen by several of those on board the MV Argonaut that thought was either a Broad-billed or a Salvin’s. Looking at these photos last night on the camera in my dodgy motel room, I thought Broad-billed, but now that I’ve got them on the computer, I’m thinking possibly a Salvin’s/Antarctic.

Reasons for it not being Broad-billed Prion: the bill – on this bird – is not broad. There was another one that I thought I got shots of that had a larger bill, but I don’t seem to have photographed that one, or I did get photos but they were out of focus (as you do when pelagic birding), so have been consigned to the recycle bin of history.

Reasons for it being Salvin’s/Antarctic: darker bird with a reasonably lengthy/chunky bill. The collar in shots 3290, 3292 and 3293 reach further than what I was seeing with the Fairy’s. That said, the collar on this bird is no where near as well defined as the Antarctic/Fairy comparison top right, page 200 of Shirihai (2008), but it’s much more pronounced than the Fairy in the same image…

Reasons for it not being a Fairy: At the time when I saw it, it looked like a different species. I can’t make a judgement on size as it was a fair way away and solo, but it seemed like it had a different jizz, was darker, and … well – I just thought it was a different species from all of the Fairy Prions I’ve seen, on both pelagic trips and from sea-watching.

I don’t know – it is also entirely possible that this is just a dark Fairy Prion. Shots taken immediately after and before this show lighter birds that look like Fairy Prions, because that’s what they are. This bird is much darker than those. Conditions were glorious out there – flat ocean, no wind to speak of, and clear light. What is shown here is just a crop of the original.

Anyway – if you have an opinion on this bird, post below or shoot me an email –

There’ll be a full report coming up – I’ve got an essay due in 3 weeks, so what better time than now to update the website, process 1500 photos, and write a super long blog post about my trip to the Hunter?!

Over halfway through the year already!

Where does the time go…?

Last time I wrote, I’d just got back from the Oriental Plover twitch. Since then, I’ve been to Melbourne twice (only to Western Treatment Plant once though), done the Princes Highway in driving rain, and apart from that, flat out with uni and not processing photos. However, with uni finished for semester (kick-off for semester 2 is next week), I’ve been going birding when possible (pelagic this Sunday), and giving the website a slight makeover. That is all backend at the moment, but stay tuned for all new galleries as I move away from flickr to hosting everything locally.

So let’s start at the start – Victoria in mid-February, mostly to see My Bloody Valentine (a band in case you’re wondering), but the camera came along and a small bit of birding was squeezed in. The highlights were: Western Treatment Plant – once again, an awesome place. Nothing amazingly unexpected – there had been a Broad-billed Sandpiper around, but I didn’t see it, and probably the highlight was a flock of 6 Brolga, which was a new bird for my Victorian list. I managed close to 80 birds in 4 hours, got some good photos (yet to be processed), and saw a fantastic band. That was a good day.

Shortly after that, uni started. I am seriously loving this degree, but its quite hard to study birds, when that same study reduces the time available to go birding! To be fair, one assignment did involve spending heaps of time in the field, surveying birds at one of my favourite spots, Mt. Bass Firetrail in the Royal NP, and the residential school involved a full day in the field birding, and I saw over 150 birds while on residential school, including the trip there and back, but I missed out on some truly amazing Sydney Pelagic trips, most stingingly the one where they got the Barau’s Petrel… gragh! aaaanyway… apart from birding, one of the hghlights of the residential school was the taxidermy. I am absolutely terrible at it, and am quite happy to never have to prepare a skin again, but to literally get my hands inside a Boobook and a Crested Pigeon and see just how fragile these organisms I love to chase are, gives a new dimension to birding.

Marks come out for semester 1 in a couple of days, and looking at my unscaled marks I’ve spanked one subject and belted the other one, so hopefully scaling is favourable to me and I destroy it. Looking at the assignments for this coming semester, one appears to have me conducting silly amounts of time in the field birding again… did I mention that I love this degree?

Drs Dave Watson and Melanie Massaro know their stuff, and to anyone reading who is thinking of doing the Graduate Diploma (or Certificate) in Ornithology at CSU – I encourage you to give it a crack. I’ve got a different lecturer this semester, but he’s been an ornithologist for years and years, so I’m excited to learn from him too.

Ayeay – the birding! I camped in Chiltern as I usually do, so managed to get out each morning and get out most nights. Bartley’s Block was amazing, as usual, and despite the Regent Honeyeater captive bred birds being released, and hearing them at the release sight, I couldn’t see any. There were also some very late Fork-tailed Swifts around, and some White-browed Woodswallows,along with the usual suspects. Loads of Scarlet Robins as well. After that, I swung down to Melbourne to visit the nephew, and share a bottle of wine with the parents of said nephew, I then came back to Sydney via the Princes Highway. Unfortunately, the weather was absolute pants. I only managed to bird Sale Common in between rain squalls (good numbers of raptors though) and Lake Wallacoot (wallagoot?) in Bournda NP on the NSW South Coast, again in between rain (highlight being 5 species of raptor in the air at once, including calling Sea-Eagles!). It utterly hosed down for the rest of the trip, so I aborted a trip to Barren Grounds.

In actual birding news, we went spotlighting in the Royal for Sooty Owl on saturday, but apart from hearing a Tawny Frogmouth and an Owlet-nightjar, and seeing an Eastern Wallaroo, the bush was very quiet. Im looking forward to getting out on the boat off Port Stephens this Sunday.

While I can’t promise that I’ll make more regular posts and whatnot this semester, I’ll try to try. And with that in mind, I’ll try to post a report of the pelagic next week!

Good birding!